Maybe you barely remember the short-lived Pretty Wild, but you no doubt know the hysterical tear-stained voicemails opening with the iconic, “Nancy Jo, this is Alexis Neiers calling.” The phone call, sorry, the several phone calls are now immortalized on the internet as a piece of twisted hilarity. Is it the adamant argument that Alexis wore “4-inch little brown Bebe shoes” instead of Louboutins, or the crazed roar of, “EVERY TIME YOU YELL I HAVE TO F–KING RERECORD IT?” Or is it how “sister” and co-star Tess Taylor has the most IDGAF face of all time? Alexis Neiers’ legacy is more tied up to that phone call than the actual show or the slightly fictitious Sofia Coppola movie Bling Ring (which has Emma Watson playing the Alexis surrogate).
And yet there’s a dark undertone behind all those screams and sobs, and a shadow falls on top of the meme when you revisit Alexis’ struggles at the time…not just the fear of spending her adolescence in prison, but with an all-consuming addiction.
In 2010, 18-year-old Alexis Neiers was under trial for her involvement with the Hollywood Burglaries, the aforementioned Bling Ring. And to say the least, Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales’ piece The Suspect Wore Louboutins on Alexis and her friends were a little less than flattering.
So if you follow the sloppily-edited episode “Vanity Unfair,” Alexis is all smiles because Vanity Fair is going to do a piece that covers “[her] side of the story.” She gabs with Tess mid-pedicure about how there’s going to be a whole spread and photoshoot focused on JUST HER. “And there’s no way that can turn out bad,” Tess says.
She wastes no time jinxing this whole thing.
Alexis picks out some flouncy rainbow miniskirts for the article and during her interview namedrops her fave designers like Christian Louboutin and Miu Miu. There’s a moment of seemingly genuine fear while filming where Alexis’ voice wavers. “I know who I am,” she says. “And I’m proud of who I am.” But sandwiched in between the larger narrative of Pretty Wild, all the label-whoring is not a good look for Alexis.
On the surface, Alexis looks like a spoiled brat who’s just ramping up her comeuppance with that smug attitude. Whether you watch the episode in question, read the admittedly damning Vanity Fair article, or stumble upon the meme on Tumblr, you’re mostly going to view her phone call as a psychotic toddler’s tantrum.
But it wasn’t just that.
The thing is, Alexis and Tess didn’t want to gain fame in hopes of becoming the next Kardashians. They were just trying to finance a drug addiction gone out of control.
“My sister Tess and I just decided we wanted to start acting and modeling—not really to get famous, but to sustain my drug habit,” Alexis told Vice in 2013.
The core of Alexis and Tess’ bad behavior didn’t just come from being raised in the Devil’s Playground. With Alexis in particular, she had a traumatic upbringing, including a history of sexual abuse from her childhood that she blocked out for years. That, combined with a family predisposed to addiction, set her on the quest to find a numb for the pain.
“I was smoking 20 80-mg oxys a day, I was doing tons of cocaine, I was panhandling for drugs. I had an over-$10,000-a-week drug habit,” she said. “What you were seeing on TV was not what was really going on.”
This extends to the mere fact that Alexis wasn’t even living with her family at the time. The teen was holed up in a Best Western on Franklin and Vine, with nothing but a box of cereal and 30 rolls of aluminum foil.
Whether the producers were in on this or the Neiers family was able to skirt around the reality, this leaves all of Alexis’ Nancy Jo hysteria in a frightening light. Not only is she a damaged teenager clearly, as she says, “petrified” of going to prison. But you also wonder if Alexis and Tess are under the influence of something right then and if it escalated her reaction. Same-day footage of the two is woven into the previous episode “The Party,” and Alexis especially seems spacey. Maybe it doesn’t matter as much as the fact that she was clearly in pain.
Because off-camera, it was clear the girls were beyond pretty wild. Deeply Troubled would be the more fitting moniker.
At 19, a terrified Alexis confronted her demons head-on. While on trial for possession of heroin, she confessed to the judge that she desperately needed guidance.
“If you send me to prison, I will only come out with an even harder heart,” she said. “The truth is that I am a heroin addict who can’t stop using on my own, and I need help.”
Alexis then went to rehab, and emerged a whole new woman. Today she works as a drug and alcohol counselor at Alo House Recovery Center and has two criminally adorable daughters with her husband Evan Haines. She’s even helped put Tess on the road to recovery.
“I mean, we didn’t do an intervention or anything, but I sat down with her and [addiction specialist] Bob Forrest, and I just told her that I loved her so much, that I loved her just the way that she was, whether she was addicted or not, that I was here to help her,” Alexis told In Touch exclusively. “I let her know that she deserved a better life.”
The new, sober and certainly calmer Alexis radiates with peace, goodwill, and altruism. Maybe it’s a testament to how far a person can come. Maybe it’s a reminder that memes and media don’t have to define who you are. And maybe the part where she screams “STOP IT MOM, STOOOOP” is still a little funny.
But we’re still so proud of how far Alexis has come, and honestly? We kind of hope that Nancy Jo is watching.
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